Tag Archives: Freeview

BT Youview – TV Box Pro

BT has been trying to reinvent its TV service by overhauling the software and recently have introduced new hardware, the BT TV Box Pro. Content is mainly provided by NOWtv, In addition to its own set of subscription channels (AMC and BT Sport).

Like the previous Youview box, the TV Box Pro makes use of the users aerial to deliver Freeview channels, with the subscription channels coming through the BT Broadband connection. If the customer does not have a working aerial, BT can install one for a charge of £40

From NOWtv comes the Sky basic channels, MTV, Comedy Central, Nat Geo and GOLD. An odd section considering you only get one MTV channel, where is MTV Base/Music/Classic? Or any of the other Discovery channels?

Funny thing is BT offered its own bundle of TV channels ( Previously BT Max, now classic entertainment package, which has now been phased out) which continued to offer channels that were not in NOWtv, which mainly deals with Sky channels with a few extra third party channels.

Its clear that the service is tailored to those who don’t watch much linear TV, or for those who prefer streaming / On Demand since BT it a telecommunications based company.

The BT TV Pro Box

The Pro box is quite wide compared to the previous model and bares a resemblance to the Sky Q box. It’s very low profile with no standby LED or indicators, instead the BT logo lights up purple when out of standby and there are three LED’s which indicates when the box is recording and if there are any network connection issues. Whereas previous models were manufactured by Humax, the TV Pro Box was produced by Sagemcom, who have also supplied BT with their Homehubs, now known as SmartHubs.

The Youview software is in full use here, and benefits from the improved hardware along with the supported applications.

4K output is supported through the use of on demand, and the BT Sport Ultimate channel, which offers sport events in 4K. This is not BT’s first box to support 4K or HEVC, but is now a standard option since the previous models have now been discontinued, except for the basic non-recordable box. HDR is also supported, but I’ve not been able to find which type of HDR that BT use (HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR10?)

New Features

WiFi: A first for BT and Youview boxes which have always lacked the support of Wifi, likely due to the issues of delivering the multicast IPTV channels (Although Powerline wasn’t any much better in that regard). Wi-Fi is only functional when the ethernet cable is disconnected from the unit, and only 5GHZ networks can be connected.

In terms of performance it works well, but the multicast channels will break up on three signal bars or less, depending on the throughput of the broadband router. Meanwhile on demand service will work since they adjust the bit rate and the resolution depending on your bandwidth.

Overall if your gonna use Wifi, ensure the box is relatively close to the router, or just use ethernet.

Bluetooth Remote: Like Sky Q and the Virgin 360 remotes, the BT remote now connects via Bluetooth instead of IR, and features a microphone hole that has yet to be activated. This gives the possibility of giving voice commands to the remote to control the interface.

Quad Tuners: Up to four Freeview channels can be recorded simultaneously, along with two IP subscription channels. That’s a total of six channels with four Freeview and two subscription.

Good to Know

The box retains the Youview software and apps, so you will be able to upgrade with ease. Familiar services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Britbox and NowTV are all supported, with some being bundled through TV packages.

Missing Features

Multiroom streaming: You still cannot watch recordings to another box, like to a regular BT TV box, nor can you stream programmes to another device like a Tablet, Smart TV or your Smartphone. Virgin already pioneered this by the time the V6 had launched, where most recorded programms could be watched on another Tivo box, or a smart device (except for a smart TV, a device you actually want to watch shows on. i don’t know why operators think I want to watch my shows on a 8-12 inch tablet screen?

I don’t see why this cannot be offered, My Humax Freeview recorder lets you stream recorded programmes over your own network using DLNA, allowing you to use any comparable DLNA enabled deice (Xbox and PlayStation consoles have support for this, and most network enabled TV and Blu-ray players have a DLNA client included)

Really if you are after a proper multiroom service, you need to look for Sky Q or Virgin 360 service, or if you don’t like subscription services, the Humax FVP-5000T or the HDR-2000T paired with the Humax Expresso is a better solution, and works on any ISP. The Humax solution includes your regular Freeview Play services, along with popular pay services such as Netflix/Amazon Prime.

Failing that, Panasonic also offer capable network ready Freeview recorders also.

Apps and Services:

PlutoTV, VEVO, Discovery+, Disney+ and Acorn TV are services that are missing from the service, and Youtube/Odysee/Rumble are also not offered for web streaming.

Channels & Services offered

  • NOWtv Entertainment: Contains all of your basic Sky channels, along with MTV/GOLD/SYFY/Comedy Central. You can watch both the channels or watch the box sets via on demand (Some programs like Veep are only available via live TV, and are not on demand, and I have no idea why?)
  • NOWtv Cinema: All of Sky Movie channels
  • NOWtv Sports: All of Sky Sports channels with political propaganda shoved in. At least you can record and fast forward through the adverts (For now)
  • BT Sport: BT premier sports channel packages, features WWE/UFC/Boxing and Soccer. Like Sky Sports it comes with very political adverts shoved in between
  • BT TV Store: A store to purchase TV shows and movies, some are offered as part of a subscription.
  • AMC: A bonus movie channel by BT that comes bundled if you have either BT Sport or one of the NOWtv packages
  • Box Nation: Comes bundled with BT Sport, just boxing in glorious SD resolution
  • NOWtv Hayu: Not a TV channel but a reality TV boxset service, adds the Kardashian’s to your NOWtv collection

BT TV’s store, where TV show boxsets can be purchased and streamed. Personally I prefer to purchase the physical versions o these show, like a Blu-Ray.

Lack of ITV2/3/4 in HD and E4/More4 HD is a major omission, considering these channels could delivered over BT’s IP network and are considered to be popular channels, they could be a popular perk to BT TV customers considering the NOWtv offerings can be had on the standalone service.

There’s also a few channels offered in the BT Entertainment package, which is a legacy package no longer offered by BT in an effort to move customers onto their NOWtv packages. Channels in this package include Discovery, TLC, Watch, Alibi, Eden and Animal Planet. You cannot subscribe to both the entertainment and the NOWtv package simultaneously, which makes no fucking sense.

Conclusion

Whist the box itself is a nice upgrade and brings it more in line with Virgin 360 and Sky Q, if your looking for a complete TV service, go look somewhere else because BT TV packages are not really tailored for that.

Current software as of Dec 2021

The mobile app

Running on a Sony Xperia 5II

Setting up the app for first time use. If there are multiple boxes on the network you have the option to choose which box you want to use. Once set up you can set recordings remotely and view TV listings and On demand events from BT.

Recordings that are saved on the box appear but cannot be watched on the device itself, You must watch on the box itself. BT TV Store shows and events can be rented and streamed on the device itself, regardless if the user is connected to their BT Broadband or if they are using another provider.

BT Youview Guide Redesign

BT (and Youview) treated their TV service to a redesign in early 2021, with the main screen being redesigned

The home screen is displayed when the box is switched on from standby, or when the Home button is pressed. On older remotes this will be the Youview button. A search box is displayed at the top

Meanwhiles there a look at the old interface which has now been phased out

Back to the new interface, Pressing down allows you to scroll down the menu. Different sections will be displayed with content being promoted depending on its genre.

The main TV guide interface, not much has changed here

BT’s subscription channels, the program description is displayed on the highlighted show, which can be expanded by pressing the information button

On demand apps menu, not much has changed here

Recoded shows list

Watch list is programs that have been bookmarked for both on demand and live TV channels

Programs that are due to be recorded

Shows promoted and popular shows that are due to start later that day

BT has a limit on how many boxes that can be connected to a single broadband line, depending on the bandwidth and how many boxes are authorized on the account

The subscriptions channels require HDCP to be enabled, due to Hollywood copy protection

The settings area, again not much has been changed here

Pressing the information button brings up the program description

Software information

Errors

When you start the box without an active broadband connection, Freeview will continue to work and will pull TV listings from the DVB data, but you wont see any enhanced thumbnails

A look at the Nokia 9850T

The Nokia Mediamaster 9850T was one of the first ONdigital receivers released to the market, alongside the Philips and Pace models, and one of the first digital terrestrial receiver that Nokia had made.

Like other ONdigital boxes, the 9850T uses SECA Media-highway for its middleware, alongside the MediaGuard conditional access system. The box also has a PCMCIA slot for future digital interfaces, likely to enable upgrades. The front panel design is similar to the other models of the time, all boxes had a Power, Select, Menu and directional buttons to allow basic control of the receiver without a remote, and a 4 digit display which would show the channel number and the time in standby

Front View

Rear View

Lifting the Lid

Tuner Block

The tuner is implemented on a separate module away from the mainboard, it seems the board is based off the 9800/9700 satellite receiver, and when it came to adapting the design for the 9850T, Nokia added the DVB-T tuner module as a separate module. This module is soldered in and cannot be removed.

Motorola MC92314 Datasheet

The modem is also a separate component, connected what looks like an internal RS232 port, to the left you can see spaces reserved for the satellite tuner modules

Shot of the CPU and MPEG2 decoder, cannot find any other chips unless they are on the underside, so I assume this also contains the decoder.

Texas Instruments TMS320AV7110

From looking at the datasheet below, the CPU of the box is based on an ARM design and runs at 40.5MHz

Datasheet

Sony CXA20920 – AV encoder

Front panel display

Another shot of the main CPU and MPEG2 decoder, the Flash and RAM chips can be seen to the left side

The modem module itself

Size Comparison

Vs Pace Di4000

Vs Pace 2500S5

Conclusion

As this was one of the first DDT receivers on the market, the box seems to be quite primitive compared to the later Freeview receivers with its lack of a full EPG and more importantly 8K tuner support, however in the ONdigital era the Nokia was considered to be the more reliable and supported box (The Sony and Toshiba models did not get MHEG support) and there are reports of the 9850T being able to lock onto weaker signals better than its Philips or Pace counterpart.

The addition of the digital audio connecter would have been the main distinction from the other ONdigital boxes besides the Sony, since they were the only models to feature this.

Nokia would later go on to continue creating DTT receivers for the Freeview service, with models like the 221T or the 121T, which had an unorthodox and unique design compared to the traditional 9850T. Unfortunately Nokia exited the Freeview market after 2005, along with its satellite receivers and focused on mobile phones before Microsoft purchases their handset division. It’s not known it Nokia will reenter the set top box market.